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Audit Failures and Their Common Causes: A Study

Explanations for Audit Failures

Despite a number of scandals having highlighted poor audit practice, and regulatory reform to address the perceived failings having ensued, audit failures continue to occur on an almost monthly basis. Although a number of theoretical arguments may be suggested as to why these happen (many of which will be discussed during the course), what does the evidence tell us about the reasons for audit failure and does it support any of the theoretical arguments?

Identify and examine a number of audit failures and consider whether any pattern of common failings is evident in them. Also, think about whether what you find provides support for any of the arguments put forward as to why such audit failures occur.

Write-up your work as a report to the Senior Partner at Tickitt, Bodgitt and Scarper, an auditing firm, to enable her to address within the firm any of the issues identified and thus avoid an audit failure.

Include in your answer:

1. A discussion of the explanations that have been suggested for audit failures so that context is provided for the evidence you present. (20 marks)

2. An analysis of a number of audit failures in sufficient detail to allow you to provide evidence of any pattern of audit failures (if there is one). (40 marks)

3. A summary and conclusions that consider what the evidence shows and which, if any, of the suggested explanations are valid. (20 marks)

In addition, 10 marks will be available for the appropriate use of source documents, journal articles, etc. and a further 10 marks for clarity of expression, the structure and presentation of your answer, referencing, spelling and punctuation, etc. (Total for Question: 100 marks)

Sources of information / Reading

As a starting point, the Outcomes of FRC Enforcement investigations (see the FRC website) would seem sensible. You will then need to supplement this by reading press coverage of the cases chosen: you should give preference to ‘broadsheet’ newspapers such as the Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Financial Times.

In addition to those noted above, potential sources of information include (but are not limited to):

a. Professional (practitioner) journals, such as ‘Accountancy’ and (for a few cases) approachable academic journals such as ‘Accounting Horizons,’ ‘Accounting and Business Research’ and ‘Abacus’. The more rigorous academic journals such as ‘Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory’, ‘Journal of Accounting Research,’ ‘Journal of Accounting and Economics’ and ‘The Accounting Review’ are unlikely to include directly relevant material.

Analysis of Audit Failures

b. The University Library’s ‘OneSearch’ facility.

Articles quoted and ideas used in the report must be appropriately referenced and cited using the Harvard referencing system. Marks will be lost if these aspects are not properly addressed. For further guidance, see the Departmental Undergraduate Reference Guide that can be found on the Department of Accounting and Finance Moodle site.

There is a balance to be struck between investigating enough cases for a pattern to be discernible (if there is one) and investigating so many that the work becomes too burdensome. One or two cases wouldn’t be enough from which to draw conclusions but 10 or 20 might be too much work (depending on how much detail you go into, either in your preparatory reading and/or in your write-up). I would suggest that 3-6 cases will probably suffice. You may also wish to look-up references to case study research methods.

I am assuming that you will use examples from the UK, hence my suggestion of the FRC Enforcement actions. However, you may wish to use examples from elsewhere. A word of warning though: if you find similarities (or differences) between cases in different countries, what does that tell you about auditing generally? I.e. are cases in different countries comparable?

The FRC Enforcement actions are fairly recent (the past five years or so). If you use older cases, will you learn that ‘things have stayed the same’ despite regulatory changes or they have changed due to regulatory changes? I.e. are cases at different time points comparable?

As noted above, apart from the substance of the coursework, marks will also be awarded for use of language and presentation. This assignment therefore provides a good opportunity for you to enhance your writing skills. You may wish to visit the LUMS Learning Development team for guidance.

Any questions regarding the assignment may be directed to the course lecturer (Pelham Gore) during (on-line) office hours. However, the use of Moodle to ask such questions is strongly encouraged, as this facilitates the wider dissemination of answers.

Maximum length: 2,000 words - this limit will be strictly enforced and marks deducted for essays exceeding it (i.e., essays x% over the word limit will lose x% of the mark, with a minimum deduction of 3% of the total module mark if your answer is even one word over the limit). A properly formatted bibliography/reference list should be included. N.B. The bibliography/reference list, like all other material submitted, with the exception of the usual CWA declaration sheet which should be included in the one file submitted, will count as a part of the word limit.

Submission deadline: 12 noon on Friday 26th November 2021 (Week 7). Submission is to be via Moodle, i.e., electronic submission, only. Late submissions will be subject to the deduction of marks in accordance with the University’s late submission regulations.

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